The Vital Role of Content Marketing in Patient Acquisition & Retention

The Vital Role of Content Marketing in Patient Acquisition & Retention

Content marketing in healthcare helps patients strategically navigate through their entire care journey. By skillfully aligning insightful content with each phase of the patient journey, healthcare organizations can significantly improve patient engagement, acquisition, and retention. Read on to explore how tailored content marketing initiatives can be effectively implemented across different stages of the patient journey.

Brand-building Content: Establishing Trust & Credibility

Content marketing is pivotal in establishing a reliable and authoritative healthcare brand. The right content can help a healthcare brand make a strong impression that conveys competence, care, and credibility. Especially in crowded markets where the difference between one hospital, provider, or health system and another can be hard for consumers to decipher, content can help paint a full picture of a healthcare brand’s offerings, quality of care, and level of expertise.

The factors that influence consumers’ health decisions are more complex than just price and convenience. According to research published in Medical Economics, after insurance coverage, the most important factors patients consider when choosing where to receive care are:

  • Clinical expertise
  • Reputation of the hospital/health system
  • Communication skills
  • Appointment availability

This means healthcare brands have an opportunity to influence patient choice by raising awareness of clinical expertise, developing a positive reputation, and communicating with consumers.

Highlighting Achievements

Clinical achievements are one of the most objective metrics by which consumers can measure a healthcare organization’s expertise. They may turn to rankings to find the best provider or seek out cutting-edge technologies and treatments.

Content that promotes hospital accolades, research innovations, and community initiatives establishes a reputation of excellence in the minds of people who don’t yet need care and helps prospective patients form an opinion about the quality of care they might receive at a hospital or health system. Channels that healthcare organizations can leverage to highlight clinical achievements include:

  • Annual reports: Although research-focused annual reports can be a bit technical for a consumer audience, they are perfectly suited for clinicians. Publishing an annual report that highlights research, quality improvement initiatives, clinical trials/studies and other achievements made by staff is one way to build clout with referring physicians, an important influencer in the patient journey.
  • News, earned media, and PR: The news section of a hospital or health system website is an ideal hub for achievements, awards, and announcements. A concerted PR push can extend the reach of corporate news and lend credibility. Distribute news on social channels and in digital and print newsletters. For instance, when a hospital successfully performs a cutting-edge procedure, such as a minimally invasive robotic surgery for heart valve repair, the news can be shared through a press release, highlighted in the website’s news section, and promoted on social media channels and newsletters to maximize visibility and establish the hospital as a leader in advanced medical treatments.
  • Community newsletters: A geographically targeted newsletter for consumers in a hospital’s service area is an effective way to build familiarity with prospective patients and communicate health opportunities. Health observation campaigns, community engagement events, classes, and facility spotlights are all entryways that help consumers experience — and develop a positive impression of — the brand before they ever have a health encounter. For example, a hospital might regularly feature breakthroughs in pediatric care in its monthly newsletter, thus drawing attention from parents looking for top-tier pediatric services.

Humanizing Providers

A brand that is strong on paper is only as competitive as the real-world experience its employees create for customers day in and day out. Providers are the front line of brand experience in healthcare, and for prospective patients, they can be the deciding factor when choosing where to receive care.

Content featuring healthcare providers not only spotlights their expertise and achievements but also add a personal touch, making the healthcare experience more relatable and trustworthy. Some creative ways to feature providers include:

  • Profiles: Personal profiles offer an opportunity to delve into a provider’s personality and contextualize their work with anecdotes and interesting factoids. A provider may have a compelling story behind their decision to practice a certain specialty or a unique background — such as being a lifelong resident of the community. With these stories, a hospital can convey key values embodied by its providers, such as dedication to the community and passion for patient wellbeing.
  • Q&As: Like profiles, Q&As allow providers to connect with patients by speaking directly to them. Depending on the topics covered in the piece, Q&As can also be a venue for providers to demonstrate expertise and position themselves as trusted advisors who by answering common questions about medical conditions and procedures.
  • Subject-matter expert: Tapping providers as experts in consumer healthcare content helps demonstrate a provider’s knowledge on a healthcare topic or condition and demystify complex medical concepts. In turn, this can build trust and make them more approachable for patients.

Awareness-raising Content: Enhancing Health Literacy

The time a healthcare consumer can spend with a hospital or health system’s content before making an appointment or even needing care ranges on a broad spectrum. Prospective patients may turn to health content to answer the quick and common medical questions that come up in their busy lives, just as they may seek answers to the unusual signs and symptoms of disease that can take years to emerge.

It’s important for healthcare organizations to position themselves as a trustworthy and accessible source of medical information, so they can begin developing a relationship with prospective patients before the first health encounter. There are several ways to approach creating content for the awareness phase of the patient journey.

Search-based Educational Content

By developing content that aligns with common health-related search queries, hospitals can attract prospective patients at the moment they seek specific health information. There are a variety of free and subscription-based tools that can illuminate what patients are searching for and which topics are trending. Framing health content in response to these queries and employing SEO best practices can help healthcare organizations meet consumers where they are — online and in search engines — in their patient journey, rather than waiting for the consumer to come to them.

Many consumers also use social media as a search engine, so it’s good practice to develop content with an omni-channel approach. According to research by EMARKETER, more than a quarter of millennial and Gen Z consumers begin their search for medical information on social media.

FAQs & Basic Medical Information

Simple, accessible, informative health content empowers patients to take informed steps toward their healthcare. As patients become more health literate and health conscious, they are more likely to be proactive about their healthcare.

For example, a series of blog posts detailing the signs and preventive measures for seasonal allergies can engage prospective patients looking to effectively manage their spring and fall symptoms. While they may begin by making lifestyle changes, they may make an appointment to manage persistent symptoms.

One health system that excels at this type of content is Mayo Clinic. It’s health library provides online articles about a wide range of diseases, procedures, drugs, and lifestyle topics that are geared toward consumers.

Decision-nurturing Content: Providing Proof Points

Whether a patient is only peripherally aware of their need for care — perhaps they know they’ve reached an age where cancer screening is recommended — or is actively searching for a provider to treat a diagnosis, content helps narrow that consideration set and build confidence in the ultimate decision. Healthcare organizations have the opportunity to influence and inform that process with content levers.

Health Risk Assessments (HRAs)

HRAs can personalize a patient’s understanding of their health risks and clarify the next steps they should consider, such as consulting a specialist. They contextualize the urgency around a person’s health with unbiased, evidence-based recommendations. HRAs can be an excellent catalyst that solidifies a patient’s decision to make an appointment.

Reinforce HRAs with nurturing communications. Upon completion of an assessment, use email to deliver personalized health tips or further screening materials to help patients maintain the momentum they need to seek care — whether it be routine or to address a problem.

Patient Testimonials

Healthcare decisions are largely influenced by the expectations consumers have developed in their B-to-C interactions. Just as consumers expect to see reviews and ratings for the products they buy, they seek out the validation of other patients when shopping for healthcare. Research has shown as much as 90% of patients use online reviews when evaluating physicians.

Patient testimonials add credibility to a healthcare organization by allowing prospective patients see how a brand delivered on its promises in a real-world scenario and to see themselves reflected in a positive outcome. Sharing success stories of other patients can also provide the reassurance and inspiration needed for prospective patients to commit to a procedure or treatment.

Patient Retention Content: Ensuring Long-term Engagement

After a health encounter, the focus of content marketing shifts to maintaining a relationship with the patient. Through relevant, engaging content, a healthcare organization can promote long-term health management.

Post-Visit Content

Delivering content that supports patients in managing their condition or recovery can enhance satisfaction and adherence to prescribed treatments. For example, after a diabetes diagnosis, monthly emails that include dietary advice, lifestyle tips, and reminders for glucose level checks can help patients manage their condition more effectively.

Trigger Content Campaigns

Timely, targeted content following medical appointments or treatments can provide ongoing support and maintain communication with patients. For example, patients who have a mammogram may receive helpful content about ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer, concerning signs to watch for, and reminders for their next screening.

Ready to Elevate Your Patient Acquisition & Retention with Content?

Sophisticated content marketing can anchor your patient engagement strategy. By systematically leveraging content marketing throughout the patient journey, hospitals can not only draw in more patients but also forge enduring relationships, enhancing both patient satisfaction and loyalty. Contact Unlock Health today to learn more about our approach to content-driven patient acquisition and retention.